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Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

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The Crimson Petal And The White: character biographies

Sugar – Romola Garai

Sugar is a sexually adept prostitute whose reputation for sensuality precedes her; alluring and highly sought after, she "never disappoints'. Her intelligence and wit sets her apart – self-educated and ambitious, she's able to engage in heated discussion while satisfying her clients.

Having spent years at the mercy of men, Sugar yearns for a better life and craves the freedom to make a living using her brain rather than her body. When not at work Sugar pens a dark, gothic novel in which a prostitute enacts revenge on all the men who have wronged her – a theme that has threatened to seep into reality.

Mourning the recent death of her friend Elizabeth, beaten by two punters, Sugar is determined to flee the hell that is St. Giles. With the arrival of William Rackham, this escape becomes a tangible prospect – and one that Sugar is keen to exploit.

William Rackham – Chris O'Dowd

An egotistical perfume magnate who is loath to join his father's business, William is a failed writer and deeply in debt. His luxurious house in Notting Hill offers modest comfort for him, despite the strain of looking after his increasingly unstable wife.

Life holds little joy for William until friends Bodley and Ashwell point him towards Sugar, a notorious prostitute featured in More Sprees In London, a guide for the man about town.

Learning about Sugar, William tracks her down and instantly falls under her spell. As Sugar becomes increasingly integral to William's success, it seems he will stop at nothing to keep her by his side. The ramifications of his affair will be profound.

Agnes Rackham – Amanda Hale

William's delicate and disturbed wife, Agnes confounds those around her and draws disrepute on the family with her reclusive behaviour and dramatic public outbursts.

She spends her days writing her memoirs, conveying her misguided notions to the world. Fiercely religious, Agnes is buoyed by the belief that she has a guardian angel, and will one day escape her caged existence to live in the 'Convent' that she visits in her dreams.

Following deterioration in her condition, she is placed at the whims of the sinister Dr Curlew.

Henry Rackham – Mark Gatiss

William's pious older brother Henry sublimates his sexual urges by committing himself fully to the church. Fuelled by his feelings for the widow Mrs Fox, he begins charity work in the brothels of St. Giles, opening his eyes to a world he never knew existed.

The repressed sexual tension between Henry and Mrs Fox is palpable and clear for all to see, but timid Henry is too inhibited to act and soon his thwarted desires threaten to consume him.

Mrs Emmeline Fox – Shirley Henderson

Working with the fallen women in the recesses of London, widowed Mrs Fox aims to provide physical and spiritual relief to the poor creatures she encounters. Intelligent and engaging, she becomes the sexual obsession of Henry Rackham, although her brother, Dr. Curlew, disapproves of this infatuation.

Mrs Castaway – Gillian Anderson

The inimitable Mrs Castaway runs the celebrated brothel in St. Giles where Sugar has worked all her life. Her walls are plastered with images of her favoured saint Mary Magdalene and she keeps an unyielding grip on the girls she employs.

When William falls for Sugar, Mrs Castaway hesitates at granting him exclusive access as it would mean taking the brothel's most desired property off the market.

Dr Curlew – Richard E Grant

Dr Curlew is Agnes Rackham's consultant and a supposed expert in cases of female hysteria. He refuses to listen to the woman's pleas, instead taking every opportunity to examine and sedate her.

With nothing in his life but his work, Dr. Curlew makes it his business to interfere in the lives of others.

Bodley and Ashwell – Blake Ritson and Bertie Carvell

Men about town, these gentlemen pride themselves on their knowledge of all things a la mode, in particular which women are flavours of the month.

When they are not socialising or frequenting every brothel in town, these dandies are earnestly researching material for their books, The Efficacy Of Prayer and The Great Social Evil.

Bodley and Ashwell introduce William to the enigmatic Sugar... a woman so famed that her very existence borders on rumour.

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